The NGO Challenge for International Relations Theory: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The NGO Challenge for International Relations Theory

1st Edition

Edited by William E. DeMars, Dennis Dijkzeul


340 pages

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It has become commonplace to observe the growing pervasiveness and impact of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). And yet the three central approaches in International Relations (IR) theory, Liberalism, Realism and Constructivism, overlook or ignore the importance of NGOs, both theoretically and politically.

Offering a timely reappraisal of NGOs, and a parallel reappraisal of theory in IR—the academic discipline entrusted with revealing and explaining world politics, this book uses practice theory, global governance, and new institutionalism to theorize NGO accountability and analyze the history of NGOs. This study uses evidence from empirical data from Europe, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia and from studies that range across the issue-areas of peacebuilding, ethnic reconciliation, and labor rights to show IR theory has often prejudged and misread the agency of NGOs.  

Drawing together a group of leading international relations theorists, this book explores the frontiers of new research on the role of such forces in world politics and is required reading for students, NGO activists, and policy-makers.


NGOs have been challenging international relations theory for some time, and this essential volume clearly articulates the many ways it has. More importantly, it also charts a path for future theorizing.   

Michael Barnett, University Professor of International Affairs and Political Science, George Washington University

This new volume on NGOs provides a root and branch critique of how all the major IR theories overlook the politics of NGOs. Redeploying core themes of power and practice, it provides an in-depth understanding of the global order, locating the ‘bridging’ role that NGOs play for many issues and across many societies. The chapters offer new insights into the strategies and impacts of NGOs in international affairs, and the conclusion synthesizes the various ways in which NGOs force radical reorientations of IR theory. This book should be read by any student or scholar of international relations.

Anthony F. Lang, Jr., Chair in International Political Theory and Director of the Centre for Global Constitutionalism, University of St Andrews

"The NGO Challenge for International Relations Theory is an important and thought-provoking book that consolidates multiple perspectives and offers sound and novel advice for NGO researchers. It will primarily interest doctoral students and faculty specializing in NGO studies, as well as IR theorists concerned with ontology, epistemology, and methodology."

George E. Mitchell, The Powell School of the City College of New York

Table of Contents

PART 1: Introduction: 1. William E. DeMars and Dennis Dijkzeul – NGOing: Practice, Bridging and Power PART 2: Theory 2. Morten SkumsrudAndersen – How to Study NGOs in Practice: A Relational Approach, 3. Karen A. Mingst and James P. Muldoon, Jr. – Global Governance and NGOs: Reconceptualizing International Relations for the 21st Century, 4. Anna Ohanyan – Network Institutionalism: A New Synthesis for NGO Studies PART 3: Crosscutting Evidence: History, Region, Accountability 5. Bob Reinalda – The Coevolution of Non-Governmental and Intergovernmental Organizations in Historical Perspective, 6. Elizabeth A. Bloodgood – Being an NGO in the OECD, 7. Cristina M. Balboa – The Legitimacy and Accountability of International NGOs PART 4: Case Evidence: NGOs and Networks 8. Shareen Hertel – The Theoretical and Practical Implications of Public/Private Partnerships for Labor Rights Advocacy 9. Patrice C. McMahon – NGOs in Peacebuilding: High Expectations, Mixed Results 10. William E. DeMars – Follow the Partners, 11. Dennis Dijkzeul – Heart of Paradox: War, Rape and NGOs in the DR Congo PART 5: Conclusions and Implications 12. William E. DeMars and Dennis Dijkzeul – Conclusions and Implications: NGO Research and International Relations Theory

About the Editors

Dr. William E. DeMars is Professor & Chair, Department of Government, Wofford College, USA.

Dennis Dijkzeul is the Executive Director of the Institute of International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict and Professor of Conflict and Organization Research at Ruhr University Bochum, Germany.

About the Series

Global Institutions

The "Global Institutions Series" is edited by Thomas G. Weiss (The CUNY Graduate Center, New York, USA) and Rorden Wilkinson (University of Sussex, UK).

The Series has two "streams" identified by their covers:

  • Blue covers offer comprehensive, accessible, and informative guides to the history, structure, and activities of key international organizations, and introductions to topics of key importance in contemporary global governance. Recognized experts use a similar structure to address the general purpose and rationale for specific organizations along with historical developments, membership, structure, decision-making procedures, key functions, and an annotated bibliography and guide to electronic sources.
  • Red covers consist of research monographs and edited collections that advance knowledge about one aspect of global governance; they reflect a wide variety of intellectual orientations, theoretical persuasions, and methodological approaches.

Together these streams provide a coherent and complementary portrait of the problems, prospects, and possibilities confronting global institutions today.

Learn more…

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